Prisoners of the Ghostland mixes Eastern and Western genres but fails to add anything new to the pot.
In Prisoners of the Ghostland, a notorious criminal (Nicolas Cage) must rescue an abducted girl (Sofia Boutella) before his balls explode. Director Sion Sono fuses the Samurai and Western genres together under the umbrella of post-apocalypse. Does Prisoners of the Ghostland live up to its inspirations or is it just another B-movie?
The main characters are serviceable, but there’s a lack of empathy built between Cage and Boutella. The blend between genres is interesting but is by no means new territory. There was better swordplay, gore, and atmosphere in the Lone Wolf and Cub films made 40 years earlier.
Stylistically Prisoners of the Ghostland delivers a gorgeous art house apocalypse that has more in common with El Topo than Mad Max. The film takes place in a stylized hyper-reality that’s sure to get comic book lovers creative juices firing. Within the film, there are wanted posters depicting characters from Lupin the Third, illustrating how the film’s world is similarly playful and exaggerated.
While I enjoyed Prisoners of the Ghostland, I felt many of its ideas have been explored in better films. It lacks the underlying themes from a thoughtful art film and the spectacular gore from good grindhouse. “Style over substance” has become an overused criticism, but even as a die-hard “formalist,” I felt that Prisoners of the Ghostland lacked something to say.
Prisoners of the Ghostland is now streaming on VOD.